Back in 2009 I warned against the high risk of adverse reactions to the HPV vaccine and, given its low success rate in preventing a rare and avoidable cancer, advised against it. To date the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency have had 8,228 reports of adverse reaction reports in 10 years, which is estimated to be 10% of the real count, with side effects including chest and abdominal pains, exhaustion, breathing difficulties, fibromyalgia and postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, says the Daily Mail. Some have been left wheelchair-bound by apparent effects of vaccine. One poignant case of a girl was reported recently in The Independent. It is a moving and far too common story of a healthy girl who has been completely debilitated by the vaccine. 'I had severe chest and abdominal pains, and breathing difficulties - one time, I couldn’t move anything on one side of my body,’ she says. Her family have helped set up the Association for HPV Vaccine Injured Daughters (AHVID). Despite this the NHS is pushing for higher vaccine rates among 12-13 year old girls. It's hard to resist but my advice is don't have it without your medical practitioner signing the vaccine consent form.
The reason for this is that pharmaceutical companies are exempt from Legal Aid funded action so it is very hard to get compensation for damage unless you get this Vaccine Consent Form signed. It makes them take full responsibility for their recommendation.
The first point to be aware of is that the risk of death from cervical cancer Is very small. Two in every 100 cancers diagnosed in women are for cervical cancer, which if picked up early with a pap smear test, is very treatable. Most cases are thought to be caused by a strain of the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). The greatest risk comes from unprotected sex from multiple partners. However, in more than 90 percent of all cases the infection resolves on its own and does not lead to any health complications.
Currently there are about 900 deaths a year from cervical cancer, most of which could be eliminated with faster diagnosis encouraging pap smears if any symptoms develop, the most obvious being a small bump or group of bumps (possible warts) in the genital area. Let’s assume that, with self-screening for symptoms, and early pap smears, the death rate could be halved. Given that there are about 2 million teenage girls that means a girl's risk is about 1 in 5,000. But if your daughter is not in the ‘promiscuous/unprotected sex’ category, this has got to, at least, halve her risk. So, a more realistic risk of cervical cancer death would be 1 in 10,000. That's about the same as the risk of a teenager being killed in a road traffic accident.
What I find outrageous is that the website 123againsthpv.co.uk doesn’t say anything about watching out for genital bumps/warts, getting a pap smear test, or the dangers associated with promiscuity and unprotected sex. It just pushes the vaccine Gardasil. (This isn’t an NHS ad campaign. The vaccine is made by Sanofi Pasteur, who own the website. When did it become legal in Britian to advertise drugs? Can anyone tell me how Sanofi Pasteur got permission?)
Level of Benefit versus Risk of Harm from Vaccination
Some experts claim the vaccine is, at best, 20% effective. Some say ‘clinical trials show no evidence that HPV vaccination can protect against cervical cancer.’ (Annals of Medicine, 2011).
This is partly because there are many strains of HPV, and a vaccine will only target some, but it is also because the clinical evidence of efficacy isn't that good. But what about the risk of harm? The first vaccine to be pushed in the UK was GSK’s Cervarix vaccine. Concerns were raised about the vaccine when a 14-year-old schoolgirl, collapsed and died within hours of receiving the Cervarix vaccine. However, it has since been reported that she apparently died from an underlying cancer, rather than from a reaction to the vaccine. Another became paralysed following the vaccine. It is not known if the vaccine caused these problems. Adverse effects are quite common, with over 5,000 reported after about 1 million vaccinations.
The VAERS database (Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System), which monitors reactions in the US, reports numerous cases of autoimmune disorders contracted after receiving the HPV vaccine. These side effects now include hundreds of reports of cervical dysplasia, and also many reports of cervical cancer - the very same thing the vaccine is meant to protect against. They point out that the number of reported adverse reactions can be expected to be a fraction of the actual number of adverse reactions. Some researchers claim that this vaccine is well tolerated and ‘true’ adverse events are uncommon, however we have to be aware that there is a general medical denial of vaccine or drug-related reactions and consequently vast under-reporting. Self-reporting via organisations such as VAERS and also rxisk.org will help to flush out denied reactions. So the odds of a reaction are, at least, in the order of 1 in 200, which is a much higher level of risk than benefit.
A recent review concludes “In the Western world cervical cancer is a rare disease with mortality rates that are several times lower than the rate of reported serious adverse reactions (including deaths) from HPV vaccination.” Massive concerns about Gardasil, the vaccine currently being pushed at teenage girls, both through schools, GP practices and direct advertising, are being expressed by health experts in the US, where vaccination was first pushed heavily. Dr Diane Harper, one of the lead researchers on Gardasail, told CBS news in an interview that the available data suggests the vaccine's protective effects do not last beyond five years.
She stated: "If we vaccinate 11 year olds and the protection doesn't last... we've put them at harm from side effects, small but real, for no benefit. The benefit to public health is nothing; there is no reduction in cervical cancers, they are just postponed, unless the protection lasts for at least 15 years, and over 70 percent of all sexually active females of all ages are vaccinated." She concludes that enough serious side effects have been reported after Gardasil use that the vaccine could prove riskier than the cervical cancer it purports to prevent.
Not Worth the Risk
A recent systematic review on trials on HPV vaccines concludes… 'HPV vaccine clinical trials design, and data interpretation of both efficacy and safety outcomes, were largely inadequate….. the notion that HPV vaccines have an impressive safety profile is only supported by highly flawed design of safety trials and is contrary to accumulating evidence from vaccine safety surveillance databases and case reports which continue to link HPV vaccination to serious adverse outcomes (including death and permanent disabilities)…..We thus conclude that further reduction of cervical cancers might be best achieved by optimizing cervical screening (which carries no such risks) and targeting other factors of the disease rather than by the reliance on vaccines with questionable efficacy and safety profiles.’
Based on these assumptions, if your daughter is sensible, and aware to look out for bumps and get a pap smear if present, the odds or risk of benefit from vaccination are as follows: An optimistic 20% reduction in a very small 1 in 10,000 risk of dying from cervical cancer. At least a 1 in 200 chance of getting an adverse reaction, including a small chance of getting highly disabling and persistent adverse effects or even dying. Since many of the severe reactions are auto-immune in nature I would be extremely cautious about giving this vaccine to a girl with asthma or any other chronic inflammatory of immune-related weakness.
If any adverse reaction happens on the first vaccination, it should be taken as a big red flag not to continue. The risk, if they are not vaccinated, of dying from cervical cancer are in the order of 1 in 10,000, or possibly less with all the right ‘safe sex’ cautions and being alert for early pap screening. If you'd like to be more informed about vaccination generally please see the film The Greater Good . Also read my Special Reports, interviewing Dr Richard Halvorsen, on the pros and cons of vaccination. Whatever you choose to do for yourself and your children, it is worth getting better informed.